With more than 80 family members of victims and survivors of gun violence in attendance in Washington to show their support, including many from Connecticut, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Reps. Elizabeth Esty and Rosa DeLauro last week renewed their call for tougher gun laws.
The four Connecticut politicians held a press conference Dec. 15, the day after the fourth anniversary of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 20 schoolchildren and six educators were killed by a gunman on Dec. 14, 2012.
The gunman used a semiautomatic rifle during his killing spree. It took him about five minutes to get off about 154 shots, including the one that killed him, according to police reports.
Blumenthal acknowledged that President-elect Donald Trump has made his position on guns clear. He said Trump “is hardly committed to the cause of ending gun violence.”
Following the election, the National Rifle Association touted Trump’s victory as an opportunity to expand gun rights.
“This is our historic moment to go on offensive and to defeat the forces that have aligned against our freedom once and for all,” Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, in a video released after the Nov. 8 election, said.
But gun violence prevention advocates were heartened that gun-control related ballot initiatives passed in three states — California, Nevada, and Washington.
“There is a moment of opportunity here for a President-elect who, much as President Nixon did in going to China, can defy the expectations, do the unpredictable, and respond to the rally of the American people clamoring for and demanding action,” Blumenthal said. “The people are on our side. History is on our side. There is hope.”
Advocates against gun violence don’t believe they’re the silent majority. They believe they’re the majority of the Americans.
“As we honor four years since Sandy Hook, this is the point at which we need to put our foot on the accelerator and deliver the change that we know the American people want,” Murphy said. “We should be proud of the movement we have helped to build and of the change that we’ve already made, and we should expect and demand that the final changes that are needed to make this country safe are around the corner.”
Murphy gained national attention earlier this year when, following the mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub, he staged a near 15-hour filibuster in the Senate until he secured a commitment from his Senate colleagues to hold a vote on two measures he supported — to expand background checks on those purchasing guns and to block suspected terrorists from buying weapons.
Both votes failed to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, but even getting a vote was considered a victory. Murphy’s filibuster was followed by a more than 25-hour sit-in in the House.
Po Murray, chairperson of the Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Foundation, said the Sandy Hook tragedy was a “watershed moment for the gun violence prevention movement in our nation.”
Murray continued: We have changed the conversation. And we have elevated the conversation to the national level.
“The election is over but the conversation about gun violence is far from over,” said Murray, who added, “There will be more mass shootings due to our weak gun laws.”
She concluded her remarks by noting that the powerful National Rifle Association and other supporters of the 2nd Amendment have beaten back efforts to pass tougher gun laws.
But, Murray said: “Guns do not make us safer. Guns are manufactured to kill. We will out shout the gun lobby. We passed strong gun laws in Connecticut and can do the same here (in Washington).”
After the Sandy Hook shooting, the Connecticut General Assembly passed new gun laws that placed limits on the the size of magazines and the types of assault weapons that can be sold in Connecticut.
“This movement is about fighting for America’s children and America’s families. Each and every person lost to gun violence — over 30,000 lives every year — is a child of this country. We can and we must do better,” Esty said.
And DeLauro added: “Four years ago, our hearts were broken by a senseless and unspeakable act of gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary. For the family and friends of victims from Newtown and across the country who are standing with us today, you have endured unimaginable tragedy, but you show incredible strength and courage. As members of Congress, we have a moral responsibility to act and we will not stop our fight for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, allowing research on gun violence, and keeping guns out of the hands of potential terrorists.”